Sara Errani Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Two of the top three seeds sealed their spots in the main draw of the 2021 Australian Open, while Egypt’s Mayar Sherif booked her first-ever Grand Slam appearance and Sara Errani claimed her spot at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Wednesday.

Top-seeded Kaja Juvan took just 51 minutes to brush aside Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova 6-1, 6-2, while third seed Greet Minnen of Belgium had to dig in deep for her 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win against American Varvara Lepchenko later in the afternoon.

Also assured of a main draw appearance was former multiple Grand Slam doubles champion and seventh seed Timea Babos with a 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 win against Slovakia’s Anna Karolina in two-and-a-half hours on Court 2.

Other high-profile names to make the grade for Melbourne were French Open and US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 14 seed Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, while Italian Sara Errani left it late for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against Croatian wild card, Ana Konjuh.

The highlight of the day, however, was the effortless entry of top seed Juvan, who is currently ranked No. 104 on the WTA Tour.

The 20-year-old from Ljubljana has spent less than three-and-a-half hours on court during her three rounds of the qualifying this week. Juvan took 83 minutes to open against Australian wild card Storm Sanders, another 75 minutes to get past Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina on Tuesday before sweeping off Sramkova in just 51 minutes to book her spot in the main draw at the Australian Open that starts from February 8.

Third seed Minnen and Babos had gutsy three-set showdowns with their respective opponents. The 23-year-old Minnen was stretched the distance before overcoming Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, while Babos took two and a half hours for an equally gutsy 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 win over Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Minnen has a career-high WTA rankings of No. 103 in singles that she achieved in March last year and No. 124 in the doubles that came in August 2019. The Turnhout-born girl made her WTA Tour main draw debut at the 2018 BGL Luxembourg Open in the doubles draw along with her partner Alison Van Uytvanck, where they won the title.

A former doubles world No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner, Babos had a career-high singles ranking of No. 25.

As a junior, the 27-year-old had made significant results including three Grand Slams junior doubles titles in 2010 – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – all of them with American Sloane Stephens as partner.

On the WTA, the girl from Hungary in the senior doubles came when she won the 2018 Australian Open, the 2019 and 2020 French Open and the 2020 Australian Open.

Making the Arab world proud was Egypt’s Mayar Sherif with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 win over Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic to enter her first-ever Grand Slam appearance next month.

The 24-year-old Cairo-born Sherif, whose elder sister Rana also plays on the Tour, made her WTA singles debut in the 2020 Prague Open in August. The following month, the young Egyptian became first Egyptian female player to make it to the main draw at the French Open.

Meanwhile, India’s lone hope in qualifying also bowed out with number one player Ankita Raina going down 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to Serbia’s Olga Danilovic.

This was the first time that the Australian Open qualifying was contested on foreign soil, simultaneously in Dubai and Doha. Wednesday’s 16 successful players will be joined by players eligible for a ‘Lucky Losers’ spot and travel to Melbourne in time to serve a mandatory 14-day quarantine before the season’s first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park from February 8 to 21.


Australian Open qualifying
Kaja Juvan bt Rebecca Sramkova 6-1, 6-2
Clara Burel bt Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-4, 6-3
Tsvetana Pironkova bt Margarita Gasparyan 6-3, 7-5
Olga Danilovic bt Ankita Raina 6-2, 3-6, 6-1
Greet Minnen bt Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
Timea Babos bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-7, 6-2
Francesca Jones bt Jia Jing Lu 6-0, 6-1
Olga Danilovic bt Ankita Raina 6-2, 3-6, 6-1
Liudmila Samsonova bt Lesia Tsurenko 7-6, 6-2
Chloe Paquet bt Yue Yuan 7-6, 6-3
Elisabetta Cocciaretto bt Harmony Tan 6-3, 6-1
Sara Errani bt Ana Konjuh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Valeria Savinykh bt Ysaline Bonaventure 6-4, 7-5
Rebecca Marino bt Maryna Zanevska 6-4, 7-6
Mayar Sherif bt Aleksandra Krunic 6-1, 6-2
Whitney Osuigwe bt Mihaela Buzarnescu 2-6, 7-6, 6-2
Mayo Hibi bt Kamilla Rakhimova 6-4, 6-4